02 October 2023
Why culture & employee wellbeing is the best investment a young business can make
#ChooseCulture – A Boldspace Story
It was early 2020 and the COVID storm clouds were gathering. I worked in a recruitment agency at the time, helping marketing agencies source talent, but my phone was ringing off the hook for all the wrong reasons. As the lockdown rumours became reality, 95% of my client base were cancelling interview processes and removing their job vacancies from the market. Brands were pulling budgets, cancelling pitches, and the subsequent sea of redundancies soon followed.
While preparing to spend several months on furlough, one of my inbound phone calls wasn’t all doom and gloom. It was my long-term client and Boldspace co-founder, Nick Ford-Young. Nick let me know that despite the economic fallout from COVID, the Boldspace launch plans had not changed; they were proceeding as planned and they wanted my help. Of course, I didn’t dare tell him and fellow co-founder Mike Robb that I thought they were a bit mad to launch their agency at this time. Instead, I cancelled my furlough plans and sharpened my pencil to take notes on what kind of agency Boldspace wanted to be.
Over the 10+ years of recruiting for marketing agencies, I became very used to hiring managers quick to name-drop client brands and case studies from yesteryear as reason #1 candidates should work for them. And sure, who doesn’t want to know what brands they’ll be working on, right?
But workplace culture and employee wellbeing always seemed to play second fiddle. I’ll always remember one agency founder, after listing the legally required benefits, proudly boast that they order pizza on the last Friday of every month for their staff, as if it were something to shout about from the rooftops.
But Boldspace: Their brief was to lay the foundation of an excellent work culture and truly commit to being a market-leading place to work. It was unusual for start-up companies to offer a market-leading benefits package from the get-go; lots of founders seem to view them as a sunken cost.
The mindset that great culture and benefits is a direct investment into the long-term success and growth of the business was refreshing, and Boldspace candidates seemed to agree; in the first year, I was lucky to help several candidates join the business, with very positive feedback. Shout out to Head of Consumer Lou Kelly, Senior Digital Consultant Greg McCann, Creative Director Matt Weston, and Client Director Jillian Sypkes!
After leaving the marketing agency world, I ventured into a completely new sector, taking on a leadership role in recruitment at another startup company. Over an 18-month period, I gained valuable experience, but unfortunately, I also witnessed first-hand how the lack of investment in company culture by senior leadership can hinder a business’s commercial objectives.
Then, a turning point arrived when I received an invitation to interview for the Head of Talent position at Boldspace. I gladly accepted, recognising that here were two young startup businesses, each with a markedly different approach to culture. In one, culture languished near the bottom of the priority list, leading to stagnation in terms of growth. In contrast, Boldspace placed culture at the forefront of its values. During my interview process, I discovered the remarkable progress Boldspace had made in the 18 months I had been out of the loop and in the three years since it was founded:
- Year-on-year growth had transformed it into a multi-million pound revenue business, achieving remarkable profitability.
- The team had expanded to include 50 employees.
- Boldspace was proudly listed in the prestigious PRWeek top 150.
- They had successfully relaunched their marketing insight SaaS product, BoldLens™️.
- The company had earned multiple industry awards for the exceptional quality of their work.
These accomplishments showcased the remarkable journey that Boldspace had embarked on and reaffirmed my decision to join a company that not only prioritised culture but had also demonstrated significant success and growth as a result, in a relatively short span of time.
Needless to say, I was offered the position and very happily accepted.
So why am I telling you this story? In a world where we’ve been snowed under by the amount of content about the importance of company culture and all the buzzwords associated with it, I believe that first-hand experiences carry far more weight.
Here are the key business impacts I’ve seen a strong cultural investment make in a young business in the six months since I joined:
People are far more productive and happier when treated fairly. Employee benefits such as flexible working hours, wellness initiatives, and professional development opportunities like the Boldspace Academy can supercharge a team’s performance. Invest in their growth, and they’ll invest in the company’s.
Attracting & Retaining Top Talent
A vibrant work culture and an enticing benefits package are a magnet for top-tier talent. Having been on the other side during my career at a recruitment agency, it wasn’t always comfortable persuading candidates to interview with clients with a sub-par culture. The best and brightest are drawn to companies that prioritise their wellbeing and development. Stepping into each interview at Boldspace with genuine excitement to tell candidates about our culture and benefits makes all the difference.
Maximising Long-Term Success
A nurtured culture is better equipped to weather challenges. A committed, close-knit team are far more likely to stick together and stand by the company during tougher times.
A diverse and inclusive culture encourages fresh perspectives and innovative ideas. When employees feel respected and heard, they’re empowered to share solutions that can set your company apart and even lead to winning awards.
Burnout is the enemy of productivity. Flexible working options are much more common these days (one of the only good things to come out of the pandemic) but offering that alongside mental health and wellness support makes all the difference to happiness, engagement, and productivity.
Far too often, founders view culture and benefits as mere expenses when they ought to view them as a direct investment in the future success of the business. Prioritise your people and they will, in turn, prioritise your success. So, whether you’re a job seeker looking for your next workplace or a business founder looking to reprioritise, #ChooseCulture.